The Turkish military’s ongoing operation in Syria will achieve its goal when Tal Rifaat in northern Aleppo is taken under control by the army, autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday.
Speaking at his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) 6th ordinary provincial congress in the Black Sea province of Trabzon, Erdoğan said, “God willing, we will achieve this operation’s goal by taking control of Tal Rifaat within a short period of time.”
The president also urged the US to transfer control of Syria’s Manbij from People’s Protection Units (YPG)/Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants to the city’s “real owners.”
“Together with our brothers and sisters, we can raise Manbij’s substructure and superstructure,” he said, adding this would allow the people to return to their homes. “If the terrorist organization is not cleared from here, then we will have to do this together with the people of the region,” Erdoğan added.
Turkey and the US have been trying to iron out a number of issues, principally concerning the YPG in Syria, a group the US has worked with, calling it a “reliable ally” in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Erdoğan also said that Turkey had begun operations in Iraq’s Sinjar region two days after sources said the outlawed PKK militants would withdraw from the area. “We said we would go into Sinjar. Now operations have begun there. The fight is internal and external,” Erdoğan told a crowd in Trabzon province without elaborating on what operations he was referring to.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command denied that any foreign forces had crossed the border into Iraq. “The operations command confirmed that the situation in Nineveh, Sinjar and the border areas was under the control of Iraqi security forces and there is no reason for troops to cross the Iraqi border into those areas,” it said in a statement.
Sources in Sinjar said there was no unusual military activity in the area on Sunday. Sources in northern Iraq said on Friday the PKK would withdraw from Sinjar, where it gained a foothold in 2014 after coming to the aid of the Yazidi minority community, who were under attack by ISIL militants.
The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, has for decades been based in Iraq’s Qandil mountain range, near the border with Iran.